If you were to go into WandaVision completely blind – without seeing any trailers, or reading any interviews, or seeing SFX Magazine’s excellent cover on newsstands – then there’s every chance you would have absolutely no idea what’s going on in Marvel’s first Disney Plus series. That even goes for superhero fans who have been eagerly anticipating the much-delayed start to Marvel Phase 4 for the better part of two years.
WandaVision throws you in at the deep end of American sitcom traditions, spoofing the Dick Van Dyke Show with pinpoint accuracy. There’s studio laughter; it’s filmed in black and white; Wanda fulfills the role of dutiful housewife; Vision’s very ordinary workplace is filled with quirky characters; some mixed communications between Wanda and Vision leads to a humorous scenario involving a hard-to-impress company boss; there’s even an advert break in the middle. Showrunner Jac Schaeffer has gone all-in to make this as authentic as possible.
However, to enjoy WandaVision, you don’t need to know your classic Dick Van Dyke Show situations from your I Love Lucy setups. There’s something off-kilter about everything that happens, cluing us in to the fact that this is fundamentally a Marvel series about a mysterious, powerful witch and an A.I. turned sentient robot.
For instance, the episode starts with the pair trying to work out why there’s a heart symbol drawn on a calendar to mark today’s date. Is that an anniversary? Or a birthday? Or something else? They cannot figure it out, but they quickly move on – until it comes back to bite them on the indestructible bottom. And while that sounds like classic sitcom hijinks, there’s something more sinister at play. We know Vision was destroyed in Avengers: Infinity War and that Scarlet Witch is one of the most powerful heroes in the entire MCU. That’s certainly a formula for chaos, even if the hints at the reality of the situation are minimal.
That idea of Wanda and Vision not knowing what’s happening continues to plague them throughout the episode and equally throws us, the viewer, into a loop trying to work out the mystery of Vision’s return. Don’t expect solid answers anytime soon, though comic-book readers will notice minor hints peppered in here and there.
The central mystery inevitably ties each episode together as the series skips around different eras of sitcom, and the first episode’s inspired antics are a delight to watch, with Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany both having palpable fun as they embody the whimsical nature of the script. It’s fair to say that few Marvel fans were desperate for a spin-off series about Wanda and Vision when there are dozens of other arguably more exciting Avengers, yet the two actors are truly in their element as the two lovers, making you forget that Thor, the Guardians of the Galaxy, and Spider-Man are all somewhere out there in this cinematic universe. And who needs Captain America when you have Kathryn Hahn as the nosey, eccentric neighbour, the Step Brothers and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse actor hamming her performance up to match the setting.
Of course, everything about WandaVision comes with a sense of dread. Unlike those classic sitcoms – the epitome of classically happy American family values – things are not OK in the Maximoff household. The journey to discovering what’s going on, though, looks set to be a joyful affair, and seeing this excellent cast play with television tropes in these lavish sets is an exciting prospect. WandaVision showcases just how experimental Kevin Feige and his team can be with these Disney Plus shows – long may that continue.
Episodes of WandaVision are being released weekly by Disney Plus. Check out the full WandaVision release schedule for when to expect the next episode. For more Marvel coverage, check out our primer on The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.